Community health centres still eye supervised injection after Sandy Hill approval

October 23, 2017

Source: CBC News

'We're in a holding pattern, basically,' says Ottawa Inner City Health

By Kristy Nease, CBC News Posted: Jul 31, 2017 1:58 PM ET Last Updated: Jul 31, 2017 1:58 PM ET

A person injects hydromorphone at a supervised injection site in Vancouver, B.C., in April 2016. Now that a supervised injection sit has been approved for Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood, other community health centres in the city say they're still interested in pitching sites of their own.
A person injects hydromorphone at a supervised injection site in Vancouver, B.C., in April 2016. Now that a supervised injection sit has been approved for Ottawa's Sandy Hill neighbourhood, other community health centres in the city say they're still interested in pitching sites of their own. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Two Ottawa community health centres are awaiting funding and approval to offer supervised injection, and another two say they're still interested in applying to do so, after Health Canada approved a site in Sandy Hill earlier this month.

Ottawa Inner City Health (operated by Shepherds of Good Hope) formally applied to Health Canada in February to offer supervised injection, and the Somerset West Community Health Centre formally applied in June.

Both are awaiting provincial funding and are currently ironing out administrative details with Health Canada, representatives say.

The Carlington Community Health Centre and Centretown Community Health Centre, meanwhile, say they're still considering making formal applications of their own.

Sandy Hill Community Health Centre
Health Canada has granted an exemption that paves the way for Ottawa's first supervised injection site to open at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre as early as October. (CBC)

Renovations put hold on idea in Centretown, Carlington

Starting this winter, the Centretown Community Health Centre on Cooper Street will undergo extensive renovations for more than a year, so until that's wrapped up they'll be watching to see how things go in Sandy Hill and thinking about how it might work for their centre, according to executive director Simone Thibault.

"We're not going to introduce any new services during that time because it will be quite chaotic for both the community and the staff, so in the meantime we're exploring how do we keep supporting our partners with their applications, and what could it look like for us in the longer term," Thibault said.

"We also have time to look at what's working well and what's not working well when they implement supervised injection services."

It's a similar story at the Carlington Community Health Centre.

"At this time, Carlington CHC has an ongoing capital project including a substantial expansion and renovation to our centre, however we see a supervised injection site as part of the centre's future," wrote executive director Cameron MacLeod in an emailed statement.

"When the time comes to submit an application for a supervised injection Site, we will continue to be committed to community consultation as part of the process, as was done by Sandy Hill and Somerset West CHCs. We look to learn from the sites, and will work with our partners at Sandy Hill CHC and Somerset West CHC to adopt best practices."

'A great move forward'

The health centres say they're pleased with the success of the Sandy Hill centre — their application was approved by Health Canada on July 26. The supervised injection site could be open as early as October, depending on the renovation process.

"I couldn't be happier," said Ottawa Inner City Health's executive director, Wendy Muckle.

"Sandy Hill has worked so hard and they have really been, in Ottawa, the people out front of this whole issue. So to see them getting their approval, I'm just over the moon and excited for them. It's a great move forward for this whole community.... I think that you'll see a movement across the community where you're going to see more of this kind of thing happen."

For its own part, Ottawa Inner City Health still needs provincial funding before its application is approved.

"What the province has said to us is that they wanted to get the three sites in Toronto and Sandy Hill [in Ottawa] dealt with, and ... then they would move on to ourselves and Somerset West, and some of the other ones from across the province that are outstanding," Muckle said.

"So we're in a holding pattern, basically."

The same is true for the Somerset West Community health centre, according to manager Eugene Williams, adding that it might come through in the next year or so.